Determination of the expression and spatial distribution of molecular epitopes, or antigens, in patient tissue specimens has substantially improved the pathologist's ability to classify disease processes. Certain disease pathophysiologies are marked by characteristic increased or decreased expression of developmentally controlled antigens, defined as Cluster of Differentiation markers, that currently form the foundation for understanding lymphoid malignancies. While chromogens and organic fluorophores have been utilitized for some time in immunohistochemical analyses, developments in synthetic, inorganic fluorophore semiconductors, namely quantum dots, offer a versatile alternative reporter system. Quantum dots are stable fluorophores, are resistant to photobleaching, and are attributed with wide excitation ranges and narrow emission spectra. To date, routinely processed, formalin-fixed tissues have only been probed with two quantum dot reporters simultaneously. In the present study, streptavidin-conjugated quantum dots with distinct emission spectra were tested for their utility in identifying a variety of differentially expressed antigens (surface, cytoplasmic, and nuclear). Slides were analyzed using confocal laser scanning microscopy, which enabled with a single excitation wavelength (488 nm argon laser) the detection of up to seven signals (streptavidin-conjugated quantum dots 525, 565, 585, 605, 655, 705 and 805 nm) plus the detection of 4'6-DiAmidino-2-PhenylIndole with an infra-red laser tuned to 760 nm for two photon excitation. Each of these signals was specific for the intended morphologic immunohistochemical target. In addition, five of the seven streptavidin-conjugated quantum dots tested (not streptavidin-conjugated quantum dots 585 or 805 nm) were used on the same tissue section and could be analyzed simultaneously on routinely processed formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections. Application of this multiplexing method will enable investigators to explore the clinically relevant multidimensional cellular interactions that underlie diseases, simultaneously.
Published online 16 June 2006.